The Pearson corporation’s Annual General Meeting took place last week on April 29. The London meeting reported to shareholders on the company’s six billion dollar revenue last year, recent steps – including selling off major publishing enterprises – to focus more exclusively on education, company plans for the future, and challenges it faces, especially what directors call “persisting cyclical and policy-related turbulence in our major education markets.” The annual meeting also decided a variety of operational matters.

Most resolutions Pearson shareholders addressed were routine matters, such as reappointing auditors, which each passed with less than 10% of shares in opposition. It also considered a resolution prepared by the American Federation of Teachers and other concerned shareholders. It asked Pearson’s board to “immediately conduct a thorough business strategy review of the company–including education commercialization and its support of high-stakes testing and low-fee private schools–and to report to shareholders within six months.”

Pearson leadership recommended opposition to the AFT-sponsored resolution, issuing several lengthy responses. (See AGM link for downloadable materials.) The resolution failed with 14 million shares for, 578 million opposed, and 33 million abstaining. (See all AGM resolution results.) But the AFT still declared victory of sorts.

AFT preisdent Randi Weingarten said:

When you raise questions that go right to the heart of a company’s business model, as we did with our shareholder resolution today, you expect to lose the first time. What was unexpected, though, was that 14 million shares voted with us, asking Pearson’s board to conduct a review of its business model. This model has led to a 40 percent loss of shareholder value, and we believe it is because of its fixation on high-stakes testing and promotion of education privatization.
full statement

More on this story in Ed Week’s Market Brief.

Pearson continues to play a major role in the U.S. through on-line education, including charter schools, and standardized testing, particularly the Common Core-aligned PARRC assessments. It also increasingly operates in developing countries.

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